The Crescent Dunes Project by SolarReserve has been operating in Tonopah, Nevada. It ensures the provision of clean and green solar energy to nearly 75,000 homes which are kept lit even when the sun isn’t shining on a 24/7 basis.
Worthy of note, it is the first utility-scale facility in the world to use molten salt for power energy storage capabilities, a technology also known as concentrated solar.
With a concentrated solar plant such as Crescent Dunes—including other plants like it around the world—more than 10,000 movable mirrors, or heliostats, reflect solar energy to a central, 640-foot tower that heats up salt to 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit.
“The whole project cost slightly under $1 billion and SolarReserve holds a 25-year contract to supply power to NV Energy for $135 per megawatt hour,” OilPrice.com observed. “The tower produces 110 megawatts of energy for 12 hours a day according to the company, which works out to roughly 1 million megawatts per year. This in turn implies a gross [return on assets] of ~13.5 percent—not bad as investments go.”
Solar thermal plants are setting up in sun-spoiled deserts around the world. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the California Mojave Desert is the largest concentrated solar plant in the U.S., spanning 3,500 acres and has 377 megawatts of net generating capacity. The facility, however, is experiencing widely reported “engineering hiccups,” including a fire that broke out in May.
Dubai’s massive Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is another notable concentrated solar plant that will hold the distinction of being the world’s largest once it’s operational in April 2017. The facility aims to produce 1,000 megawatts by 2020 and 5,000 megawatts by 2030. The solar park also broke the record of having the world’s cheapest solar on May 1 when five international companies bid as little as 2.99 cents per kilowatt-hour to develop the plant’s latest phase of work.
Besides Crescent Dunes, SolarReserve is developing two other concentrated solar plants. The venture is building the Redstone Solar Thermal Power Project in the town of Postmasburg in South Africa, which will be the first concentrated solar plant in Africa. The other is the Copiapó Solar Energy Project in Chile which will combine both concentrated solar and photovoltaics, making it the first facility of its kind in the South American country.